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TXTS 4 Leaders is back for the 2018-2019 school year! We will start with a tip for extraordinary customer service.
Whether your school is an official “Kids at Hope” sight or not, most of us agree that we are responsible for creating an environment where all children experience success. In their model, Kids at Hope believes that we all should experience success in four areas:
1) Home and Family
2) Education and Career
3) Community and Service
4) Hobbies and Recreation
It’s easy to get these out of balance during the school year. This summer is your chance to find success in each of these areas. Take a moment to write down at least one outcome for your summer in each of these areas. You may even want to have your teachers and students do the same.
I plan to spend some quality time with my sister, read a couple of books for work and a couple that are just for fun, campaign for changes I want to see in November, and participate in a photography challenge. What about you? Feel free to share your goals in our comments. Maybe we can gain book ideas and inspiration from others.
Have a wonderful summer off from TXTS4Leaders. We’ll text you just before school starts next year!
On days dedicated to appreciating school nurses and teachers, we want to honor them for their unique contributions to our educational community. While honoring specific groups, we also want to ensure that we are not making others feel unappreciated or disrespected.
This week, consider how to ensure Teacher Appreciation Week in some way honors your full staff because we are all in this together supporting our students and communities.
Do instructional assistants get cards or notes of appreciation from students and their teachers? How are support personnel honored for their unique contributions to school during Teacher Appreciation Week?
How do we lead in uncertain times? Gordon Tredgold, Founder and CEO of Leadership Principles shared some strategies to lead in times of chaos:
1)Communicate, communicate, communicate
·Tell people what you know
·Tell them what you don’t know.
·Tell them when you will know.
2)Explain why you are making the decisions you are making
3)Ask for input if you can incorporate it. (Tredgold, 2016)
While you are crafting communication to parents and your community, try incorporating these strategies into your message.
Tredgold, Gordon. (2016, July 12). “7 Ways Successful Leaders Deal with Chaos and Uncertainty.” Inc.
As leaders, we have to be experts in emotional management. People read into and feed off of our energy. Sometimes we have to bring up the urgency level and inspire people to push ahead. Sometimes we have to remain the calming force that shows that we know we will be fine. Yet, there are days when finding the right balance of energy and emotional management is difficult.
Today may be one of those days.
We have readers across the country, but most of our TXTS4Leaders followers are from Arizona. Tomorrow, many educators will walk out of their schools. How will you manage your emotional energy?
How can you be resilient and imperturbable (incapable of being agitated)?
- Focus on embracing the challenges.
- You do not need to solve everything. Help others focus on coming up with solutions.
- Find those who you can encourage and help others find those who they can encourage.
- Remember your calling and why you are doing what you do.
- Remain calm. If you need help, view the “All is well” scene from Animal House.
We know how much our administrative professionals do for our schools, our parents, and for us. How can we show them how much we appreciate them? In combing through several surveys, the most popular answer was to give them a gift card to a place that you know they go often and would appreciate. This answer beat out flowers, cash, and taking them out to lunch. You know your administrative professionals best; maybe your secretary loves getting flowers. The survey responses made one thing clear. Use your knowledge of your support staff to allow them to celebrate in a way that matters to them. If they love notes from students, you have some time to see if students and teachers can support you in showing our appreciation to these very special administrative professionals.
How can you adjust your interview questions so that they predict a person’s performance on the job rather than assessing if they are good at interviews?
Determine the attributes and competencies that you need for this position. Do you need someone who is results-driven? Flexible? Someone who has a “whatever it takes” attitude? Someone who will be open to support and mentoring from a strong team? Figure out these competencies first and then select questions to assess these competencies.
Eliminate bad interview questions. The questions you ask need to differentiate between the candidates and help you predict their performance. Mark Murphy, founder of LeadershipIQ, shares how to change your interview questions in his Hiring For Attitude webinar outlined below:
· Get rid of hypothetical questions in favor of “Could you tell me about a time when…” Delete questions that can be rehearsed, that ask candidates to gaze into the future, or where candidates can reconstruct history. For example, “Why did you leave your last job?” asks about the past, but not about the candidate’s actions in the past. Questions that ask about past behavior have a higher potential to determine whether the candidate “has the competencies that are hallmarks of superior performance in a particular job.”
· Leave the question hanging. If you want to know how they handled a difficult situation, leave off “…and what you did to resolve the situation.” Applicants should provide a positive resolution without prompting if they are problem-solvers, reflective, or results-oriented.
· Ask fewer questions. Try to narrow your questions to around 6 questions for a structured behavior based interview. It is better to ask only those questions that can differentiate performance for your key attributes or skills. Think of a current employee who is marginal and one who is exceptional. How would they answer, “Tell me about a strength and weakness.” This question rarely differentiates performance between candidates. Now, consider how your marginal and exceptional employees would respond to this approach:
· What is your supervisor’s name? Please spell that …
· Could you tell me about ___ as a boss?
· What could you have done to enhance your working relationship with ___?
· When I talk to ___ what will ____ say your strengths are?
· Everyone has areas to improve. When I talk with ___, what would ___ say your weaknesses are? (Murphy, Hiring For Attitude, 2015)
Create answer guidelines. Know how each person on the team should evaluate the candidate’s response. You may want your exemplary employees to create the “Target” answer for each question. Your interview form can have the “Target” bullet points and then your team can rate responses as Target, Acceptable, or Unacceptable.
Another way to have interview team rate responses is to listen for the candidate to describe PAR: a specific Problem, an appropriate Action, and how he or she learned from or contributed to a Result (Clement, 2008).
Need examples? Below are a compilation of questions. What competencies or skills do each of these questions assess? Select the competencies and skills you need and then select a handful of questions that would assess them.
Questions from Mary Clement’s “Improving Teacher Selection with Behavior-based Interviewing” (2008):
· Could you describe a unit of study that you have taught?
· How have you divided a large amount of material to be covered?
· How do you write a daily lesson plan, and what is included?
· Could you please describe a practical way to teach _____________. (e.g., the concept of symmetry in mathematics, or democracy in social sciences)?
· What have you done to refocus a class?
· How have you modified assignments for English-language learners (ELL) or special education students in your class?
· Share an example of a positive communication that you have sent to parents.
· Could you tell me about a typical homework assignment in your class and what you have done to deal with students who do not complete homework?
Questions from David Walker’s “I’ve held 1,000 interviews, and I’ve found only 4 questions truly matter” (2017):
· How did the culture at your last school or organization empower or disempower you?
· What were the characteristics of the best boss you’ve ever had?
· Describe how you handled a conflict with one of your co-workers.
· What kind of feedback do you expect to receive in this role and how often do you expect to receive it?
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Questions from Anne Rubin’s “14 Fascinating Teacher Interview Questions for Principals to Ask” (2018):
· Tell us about your best collaborative experience with a colleague.
· We tell kids all the time that failure is an important step toward success. Describe a time when you failed in a professional setting.
· Can you tell me about a moment when you had to be a leader?
· Can you tell me about a moment when you had to be a follower?
· How have you changed from your first years in the classroom?
· Could you share an example of how your teaching practice been shaped by your understanding of your identity?
Clement, M. (2008, January/February) “Improving Teacher Selection with Behavior-based Interviewing” Principal. NAESP. Pp. 44-47.
Murphy, M. (2015, February 19). “Hiring For Attitude” [Webinar]. LeadershipIQ.
Rubin, A. (2018, March 30). “14 Fascinating Teacher Interview Questions for Principals to Ask” School Leaders Now.
Walker, David. (2017, July 26). “I’ve held 1,000 interviews, and I’ve found only 4 questions truly matter” Inc.
Educators never expected to get rich teaching, but many did not expect to be battling poverty or working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Christine Marsh, 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, asked teachers what they would do with a 20% raise (Roberts, 2018). Many of the answers included finally taking care of medical procedures, paying back debt and student loans, living without their parents’ financial assistance, and replacing cars, bald tires, or air conditioning units that are no longer reliable, with a few instances of wanting to be able to go out to dinner or get coffee occasionally without feeling guilty.
The question was reminiscent of the book I Wish My Teacher Knew: How One Question Can Change Everything for Our Kids by teacher, Kyle Schwartz, inspired by the answers of her students living in poverty. She used the sentence stem, “I wish my teacher knew ____” and gained great insight from the answers of her students.
When we as educational leaders advocate for our staff in the areas of culture and total rewards (climate, engagement, pay, benefits, rewards, recognition), do we know what our individual staff members want? The research suggests that the educational retention problem is not all about pay. Teachers want support and a positive climate. However, we know that half of teachers leave within their first 5 years. What is it that would keep these teachers in the profession and what makes it not worth continuing?
What could be gained if your staff were to answer the following?
- I wish my principal knew ____
- I wish my budget committee knew ____
- I wish my HR department knew ____
- I wish my legislators knew ____
If you knew the pinch points, how might your school or district be able to tailor your culture and total rewards to increase retention?
Building trust can be particularly difficult this time of year, especially as people wonder about placement, hiring, budgets, contracts, and what is in store for next year. Last week, you reflected on actions that can bust trust. This week, try to practice the four actions that can build and restore trust identified by Julie Peterson Combs, Sandra Harris, and Stacey Edmonson (2015).
· “Build trust by understanding trust. Trusted leaders demonstrate care, character, and competence in their interaction.”
o Of these, competence may be the most difficult characteristic to demonstrate. If you are continuously learning and improving your practice, you can gain competency in handling difficult situations, managing change, and supporting struggling teachers. When there are areas for which you lack competence, how can you simultaneously gain competence while leveraging resources and people to provide the skills or knowledge that are needed?
· “Build trust by monitoring your reactions. Leaders' reactions to challenging situations affect others' views of the situation and the leader. It's important for leaders to monitor their moods and not react impulsively or in anger.”
o You’ve heard, “It’s like water off a duck’s back.” React to changing moods and challenging situations like you’ve handled them smoothly before. Let a trusted colleague know that you are working to control your reactions. Have that person talk with you whenever you seemed overwhelmed or upset so that you get clear feedback when it is happening.
· “Build trust by addressing concerns. Leaders should handle difficult situations among staff quietly and directly, instead of reprimanding an entire faculty for the actions of a few. When working with struggling teachers, leaders observe their work with care and offer honest and specific feedback.”
o Good teachers leave principals who do not address concerns. They want to know that there are high expectations and that you know how to manage staff who are not meeting the expectations. They are looking for you to show the persistence and commitment required to increase someone’s competence or leave the role.
· “Build trust by saying ‘thank you.’ Sincere and frequent expressions of appreciation built trust. Look over your calendar or walk through the building looking for people who have been helpful and deserve thanks. Verbal and e-mails of thanks are valuable, but hand-written notes can be especially encouraging.”
o Consider systems that could help you make this a regular practice. Could your secretary bring you 5 blank thank you notes each week? Could the opening to each professional development be a ritual where you start with a thank you that speaks to the school vision?
Consider the possibilities of the work you and your staff could accomplish in a high-trust environment and make the effort to focus on building trust.
Combs, J, Harris, S, and Edmonson, S. Four Essential Practices for Building Trust: Are you communicating in a way that inspires trust?[Abstract]. Educational Leadership. 72(7). 18-22.
High-trust environments are places where staff work collaboratively and respond to changes fluidly with the knowledge that they all have the same intent, even if they disagree passionately on the best ways to get there. High-trust environments allow leaders to occasionally say the wrong thing or say something in the wrong way and people give grace and concentrate on a leader’s intent.
For the next two weeks we will look at leadership moves that affect trust. This week, we will focus on actions that erode trust in you. Next week, after you have reflected on your own behaviors, we will look at actions that build trust. Consider your actions in the past few weeks:
Trust Buster 1. Not Listening. How frequently do you…
Ask people for input, but then ignore their ideas? Interrupt when others are talking? Prepare your own response while others are still talking?
Trust Buster 2. Trying to Save Time at the Expense of Others. How frequently do you…
Reprimand the entire group for the actions of a few individuals? Fail to include all who are involved in a situation? Address criticisms when it is most convenient for you, without considering how the timing affects others?
Trust Buster 3. Saying One Thing, but Doing Another. How frequently do you…
Fail to follow through with an announced plan of action? Tell one group to do something that conflicts with what you have told others? Change your mind about an announced plan of action on the basis of the most recent conversation?
Trust Buster 4. Gossiping. How frequently do you…
Break confidences when you share with others? Talk about others in an unkind or unfair way? Exaggerate the facts? Share information that isn't helpful or necessary?
(Combs, Harris, & Edmonson, 2015, p. 21)
This week notice and stop making any of these moves. Next week, we will look at how to build or repair trust.
Combs, J, Harris, S, and Edmonson, S. “Four Essential Practices for Building Trust: Are you communicating in a way that inspires trust?” Educational Leadership. 72(7). 18-22.
Do you get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep during the week? Are you laughing? It is no laughing matter. According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 27% of us get enough sleep and only 10% of us actually prioritize sleep (Morgan 2018). You have probably tried to get by without much sleep and have seen that it compromises productivity and health. The results of sleep deprivation are grim. Christopher Barnes and Christopher Drake (2015) compiled the research and view our national sleep crisis as a public health crisis:
Sleep-deprived people are less effective in making decisions (Killgore, Balkin, & Wesensten, 2006) and are less creative (Harrison & Horne, 1999). Sleep-deprived individuals suffer negative moods (Dinges et al., 1997) and are more likely to experience distress (Glozier et al., 2010). Sleep-deprived employees are low in work engagement (Lanaj, Johnson, & Barnes, 2014), high in unethical behavior (Barnes, Schaubroeck, Huth, & Ghumman, 2011), and low in performance (Drake et al., 2001). Sleep-deprived people suffer more obesity (Taheri, Lin, Austin, Young, & Mignot, 2004) and are at greater risk for coronary heart disease (Ayas et al., 2003). Sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to be injured (Barnes & Wagner, 2009), involved in motor vehicle crashes (Drake et al., 2010), and die at an early age (Kripke, Garfinkel, Wingard, Lauber, & Marler, 2002).
For Sleep Awareness Week, prioritize sleep as the easiest way to improve your life:
· Determine your ideal bedtime and set an alarm to remind you to turn off electronics and get ready for bed.
· Use the infographic to re-design your evenings. Stop sabotaging your ability to feel tired.
· Plan your sleep around natural 90-minute sleep cycles, aiming for 7 ½ or 9 hours of sleep with an additional 12-14 minutes to fall asleep to maximize your sleep and wake up feeling rested.
· If you think you may have a sleep disorder, make an appointment or contact your wellness program and request an in-home diagnostic test, if not a full sleep study.
Barnes, C., and Drake, C. (2015) “Prioritizing Sleep Health: Public Health Policy Recommendations.” Association for Psychological Science. 10 (6). 733-737.
Klien, S. (2015) “Prioritizing Sleep Helps You Get More Of It.” The Huffington Post.
Morgan, D. (2015) “Arianna Huffington: Better sleep improves every aspect of our lives.” CBS News.
Most of us have a committee or team that supports hiring, but do those hiring teams also feel responsible for the success of those hired once they come on board? They should. As their leader, you can support the team in creating onboarding and mentoring plans and holding your hiring team accountable for the success of your new hires.
As you are going through the selection and placement process, your team has learned a great deal about the skills, knowledge, competencies, and experiences of each candidate. Often, even if you hire the very best candidate, there can be areas of concern. Sometimes you decide to hire someone who has the right attitude and passion, but who needs a great deal of support. In any case, one of the roles of the hiring committee should be to use their knowledge of the candidate to create an onboarding and mentoring support plan for the recommended candidate.
When you think of what will support this candidate’s success, what individualized support would this candidate need? Does she need to get to know your evaluation tool? Should she read the book that your school did a book study on last year? If you had to select two on-site informal mentors for this person, who would be a good choice to support with teaching content and who would be a good choice for general school or classroom management concerns? What specifically would you want the mentors to accomplish with this new hire? If there is anything that concerned the team within the interview process, there should be a plan to address the concern proactively so that the candidate feels supported in meeting your high expectations.
If the new hire ends up not showing the growth that you had expected, then bring the general concern back to the hiring committee. What would help the process or the system to avoid hiring and onboarding someone who was not successful? How would our top performers have performed in our hiring and selection process? How can we recruit to ensure we are getting these types of candidates?
Ensuring that your hiring committee feels responsible about the candidate’s success once hired creates a cycle of improvement that continuously improves the alignment among selection, placement, and onboarding practices so that your school hires and retains top talent.
A parent wants to talk with you and told the secretary that she has a complaint about the teacher. How will you handle this conversation? According to Deidre M. Le Fevre’s and Viviane M. J. Robinson’s research, a principal who effectively manages these conversations:
- Expresses a point of view grounded in examples and evidence.
- Seeks a deeper understanding of the teacher's point of view.
- Checks his or her understanding of the teacher's point of view.
- Helps the teacher consider alternate points of view.
- Is open to the examination of his or her own point of view.
- Agrees with the teacher on what to do next. (pp. 8-9)
Which of these 6 practices come naturally to you and which ones might be a focus for you over the next few weeks? The skill that principals in the study needed to work on most was checking his or her understanding with the teacher’s point of view. Comment below if these 6 skills improve your next conversation about a parent’s concern with a teacher.
ACSD. (2015). “Double-Take: Research Alert.” Educational Leadership. Communications Skills for Leaders. 72(7). 8-9.
Le Fevre, Deidre M. and Robinson, Viviane M. J. (2014). "The Interpersonal Challenges of Instructional Leadership: Principals' Effectiveness in Conversations About Performance Issues." Educational Administration Quarterly. 51(1). 58-95.